Music icon

Country music icon Loretta Lynn dies at 90

Loretta Lynn performing in 1970. Photo: CBS via Getty Images

Loretta Lynn, the country music legend whose music lifted her from the poverty of an eastern Kentucky coal town to the heights of fame, died Tuesday at her home. She was 90 years old.

  • Her outspoken poetry dealt frankly with love, deception and motherhood, and set the standard for generations of singer-songwriters who followed her.

Lynn’s autobiographical anthem “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and the Oscar-winning film that followed, tell the story of her humble upbringing in Butcher Hollow.

  • She turned her real-life experiences to the top of the charts and sold 45 million albums worldwide.

Enlarge: Lynn was Nashville’s ultimate self-taught success story. She remembers sleeping in a car with her husband the day before her Grand Ole Opry debut. She was so poor when she arrived that she had to borrow clothes, even panties, from legend Patsy Cline.

  • “I had practically no clothes, so [Patsy] took care of me and gave me hers,” Lynn told the Tennessean in 2015. “She gave me a pair of panties that I swear I wore for four years. I don’t know what I did with them, but they never wore out.”

The big picture: Lynn’s music eventually took her to the pinnacle of country music. In 1972, she became the first woman to be named Artist of the Year by the Country Music Association.

  • During more than 60 years in the music industry, she has established herself as a fierce and inimitable songwriter and singer. His best-known work ranged from steel to tender.
  • Hits like “Fist City,” “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and “The Pill” broke the boundaries of country music for women.

What they say : “Loretta Lynn’s life was unlike any other, but she crafted a body of work that resonates with people everywhere”, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young said.

  • “In a music industry often preoccupied with aspiration and fantasy, Loretta insisted on sharing her own brash and courageous truth.”

The bottom line: Despite being one of country music’s greatest artists, Lynn saw her accomplishments through the same unsentimental lens that has made her work indelible.

  • “Cultural Contributions? What is it?” she told the Tennessean when she was to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 2003. “I was saying it like I was living it. People were hovering around it, but I went through the middle.”

Read the Tennessean’s obituary written by Peter Cooper

Loretta Lynn seated with Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and Reba McEntire.
Loretta Lynn sitting with Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and Reba McEntire in 2010. Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage for NARAS

Although Lynn is celebrated as a pioneer of country music today, her pragmatic handling of topics like divorce, sex and infidelity often put her at odds with the buttoned establishment of the industry.

  • Several of his songs were initially banned by radio stations.

Between the lines: Her brutal honesty from the start of her career clashed with the genteel image that many female performers adopted in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • At a time when women were struggling to break into the country music industry, “The Pill” hit harder than a two-by-four.

“That old maternity dress I have to go in the trash. The clothes I wear from now on won’t take so much distance,” she sang.

  • “Miniskirts, cropped pants and a few fancy little ruffles. Yeah, I’ve been wearing makeup for all these years since I got on the pill.”

Front flash: Lynn set the stage for unapologetic artists like Tanya Tucker, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and countless others.

For instance: There’s a straight line connecting “Fist City,” “One’s On The Way,” and other Lynn classics with Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman,” Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead,” and Musgraves’ “Merry Go ‘Round.” .

Loretta Lynn with Jack White at the Grammys.
Loretta Lynn with Jack White at the Grammys in 2005. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Lynn had already achieved iconic status with older generations when she collaborated with rocker Jack White on the album “Van Lear Rose”, which introduced her to new fans.

  • The album won Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration.

Why is this important: Lynn was five decades and dozens of albums into her career, and her music was ubiquitous in the country genre itself. And yet, the 2004 partnership with White showed that she still had a new page to turn.

  • “Van Lear Rose” is peppered with Lynn’s deeply personal storytelling, but the album was heralded for its stripped-down, rock-tinged sounds.
  • Hipster music website Pitchfork gave “Van Lear Rose” a glowing score of 9.3. CMT ranked it as the 18th best country album of all time.
  • “(‘Van Lear Rose’ is) a homecoming for a small-town musician with poise, humor and compassion, but deep down it’s happy to just be a kickass country record “, says the Pitchfork review.

Be smart: Lynn followed the release of the album with a tour that ventured to rock clubs across the country.

How it worked: Lynn told CMT that she got used to striving for perfection in the studio with producer Owen Bradley, who worked on many of her hit albums.

  • While Bradley preferred to do take after take of songs, White wanted to capture the songs in one take. In an Instagram post on Tuesday, White described how there were times when he was so moved by Lynn’s performances in the studio that he needed to take a break and step outside.
  • “I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing and hearing,” White said. “I almost felt like she didn’t even realize it, you know. But she was just a genius and just brilliant at what she did and we were lucky to have her. have and people can learn for example rags to riches and beautiful natural voice is part of it.”